John Conyers and Al Franken, who were both forced out of public office by sexual harassment allegations made against them, sounded very concerned about their “legacies” on their way out the door — more concerned about their legacies than the wrong they had done or the harm they have done.
BEHIND THE EDITORIAL: Sexual misconduct allegations plague our politics
Mr. Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, announced from a hospital bed that he would retire.
He has been accused by multiple former female staffers of harassing, indeed of hounding and abusing them.
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Yet, as he announced his retirement on a Detroit radio show, he said: “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we’re going through now. This, too, shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”
He’s wrong. The good he did will be remembered. So will his scoundrel ways.
Mr. Franken, a stalwart of the left, ironically touts advocacy for women’s issues among his greatest accomplishments. He announced his resignation after eight women came forward to accuse him of unwelcome groping and kissing, stemming back to his days in show business. In his farewell address he not only failed to apologize, but said he was basically, or perhaps conceptually, innocent and not resigning in disgrace but to help the liberal cause and women’s rights. That took some nerve, but he found it.
“I have faith in the proud legacy of progressive advocacy that I have had the privilege to be a part of,” he said. His precious legacy, too, will be tainted, but only by his own actions
We are in a time in which gradations and distinctions seem obliterated. Is what Garrison Keillor admits to doing really on a par with what Matt Lauer is accused of doing? Should all of Mr. Keillor’s radio shows and books be shelved or erased because of his offense?
And we have entered a period of fever pitch. So much abuse was endured for so long, silently, that now, even the rumor of abuse of power, with sexual approaches or unacceptable touching, can destroy a public career, or person.
Worst of all, we are experiencing a moment in which the accusation may be enough: No evidence. No facing your accuser. Just the charge is enough. A name can be besmirched. A life can be ruined.
We need to take care. We need to slow down and take a breath.
It should be possible for women to say “no more,” which they must say, and to assert that there is an inviolate dignity in the workplace, and of the human body, and for fairness and due process to still apply.
Meanwhile, no one believes Mr. Franken or Mr. Conyers were innocent or railroaded, including the two men themselves. They were cads and creeps and predators, and they have improved the body politic by exiting it.